Predicting healthy and unhealthy behaviors through physical education: A self-determination theory-based longitudinal approach
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The aim of this study was to evaluate the relations between three dimensions of the structured teaching environment (promotion of theoretical knowledge, physical learning, and health improvement) in physical education (PE) and the adoption of health-related behaviors by students. The study adopted a two-occasion longitudinal design based on self-determination theory (SDT). PE students (N=654, mean age=16.13, SD=.77) completed measures of perceived structured teaching environment, satisfaction of basic psychological needs and motivation for PE, and healthy (physical activity, sport participation, and healthy eating) and unhealthy (consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs) behaviors at the beginning and end of the first year of post-compulsory secondary education. Path analysis of the proposed relations among variables supported SDT tenets and showed positive relations between the three dimensions of the structured teaching environment, the satisfaction of basic psychological needs, and autonomous motivation in PE. Autonomous motivation contributed to an explanation of variance in two healthy behaviors, physical activity and sport participation. However, no relation was found among motivation in PE, healthy eating, and consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. These results show negligible trans-contextual influence of SDT motivational factors in PE on other healthy behaviors beyond physical activity.
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